THE Latrobe-Gippsland region ranks 11th out of 17 Victorian regions for heart attack hospital admissions.
The region's rate of heart attack hospital admissions is 13.7 out of every 10,000 people, and out of 17 regions across Victoria it has the fourth highest rate of death from coronary heart disease.
The Heart Foundation has launched a program to motivate more people to take up regular walking, as new research reveals Australians' alarmingly high complacency about physical activity and heart health.
In a Heart Foundation survey of more than 7000 Australian adults, two in three (65 per cent) said they knew that exercise could lower their risk of heart disease, the nation's single leading cause of death.
Yet concerningly, two-thirds of them also said that they did not meet Australian physical activity guidelines (30 minutes of moderate physical activity five or more days a week).
In terms of heart disease risk factors, 20 per cent of people in the Latrobe-Gippsland region smoke, 23 per cent have high blood pressure and 38 per cent are overweight or obese.
An incredible 67 per cent of people in the Latrobe-Gippsland region are not active enough for good health, which is about the same as the Victorian state average.
At the same time, 44 per cent of survey respondents said they had been told by their doctor that they needed to be more active.
The death rate for coronary heart disease in the region is 71.5 out of every 100,000 people, which is about 16 per cent above the state average.
The data covers the Wellington, South Gippsland, East Gippsland, Bass Coast and Baw Baw shires, as well as the Latrobe City municipality.
Heart Foundation Group chief executive Adjunct Professor John Kelly said research suggested that while many Australians knew that movement was good for their hearts, and had been advised by their doctors to be more active, they were not acting on the information.
Overall, about one in two Australians aged 18 to 64 - almost eight million people - are not active enough for good heart health.
"This is extremely concerning given physical inactivity is a key risk factor for heart disease, which takes 50 Australian lives each day, or one every 29 minutes," Prof Kelly said.
To encourage more Australians to get moving, the Heart Foundation has launched its Personal Walking Plans.
In this free, six-week program, participants will receive a walking plan tailored to their current activity levels, as identified during an easy, two-minute sign-up process.
Plans will be delivered via weekly emails and texts, which are designed to support and motivate participants and deliver information about the many benefits of walking beyond fitness and heart health.
"This is a vital component of the Personal Walking Plans, because as our survey shows, simply understanding that physical activity is good for the heart does not equate to getting off the couch," Prof Kelly said.
"Over this six-week journey with us, participants will learn about some of the lesser-known benefits of regular walking, like unwinding at the end of a stressful day; exploring their neighbourhood; becoming stronger and more flexible; and improving their mood."
This is in addition to walking's other incredible health benefits, Professor Kelly said.
"Walking for an average of 30 minutes a day can reduce your risk of not only heart disease, but also stroke, diabetes, dementia and some cancers.
"It can also help maintain healthy blood pressure, cholesterol and weight.
"That's why we often call walking a 'wonder drug'.
"If it were a medicine, we would all be taking it daily for longer, healthier, happier lives.
"By highlighting the unique and holistic benefits of walking, we are confident of recruiting an enthusiastic new generation to our Heart Foundation Walking family, while also continuing our mission to save Australian lives from heart disease."
The Heart Foundation's Personal Walking Plans have been developed by the organisation's experts in physical activity and exercise science, with input from consultants at Exercise and Sports Science Australia.
To get started with a free Heart Foundation Personal Walking Plan, visit Walking.org.au.